Matchzone: Ayr United Reserves (A)

Kilmarnock jumped to the top of the SPFL Reserve League table following a 2-2 draw against Ayr United at Townhead Park on Tuesday 12th December.

Alan Archibald selected a squad of youngsters for the Ayrshire derby, with the first-team given time to recover from Sunday’s victory against Celtic.

Killie shaped up in a rough 3-4-1-2 formation fronted by Bobby Wales and Zander Craik in attack, with Aaron Brown supporting behind. Steven Warnock and Aron Quigg were handed central midfield roles, while Tom Davies and Ben Brannan bombed forward from wing-back positions. Ethan Brown captained the side from defence alongside Ruari Ellis and Ethan Mersey.

Both sides eased into the game in the opening quarter of an hour, having to contend with the conditions on a soaking day in Cumnock.

Killie were first to show a real attacking intent through the lively Bobby Wales. After receiving a pass from Aaron Brown on the edge of the box, it was the Alloa loanee who fired the initial shot at target: both his strike and Steven Warnock’s follow-up were strongly blocked inside the box.

At the opposite end, Killie keeper Aidan Glavin was called upon to make a series of solid stops before his side took the lead. The 18-year-old done well to deny Francis Amartey from an angle, turning a low shot over the bar with his outstretched foot.

The No.1 showed impressive anticipation to halt a surging Ahkeem Rose a couple of minutes later, denying the Ayr forward in a one-on-one situation.

Killie broke the deadlock on 18 minutes. Excellent reading of the game saw Ben Brannan make a fine interception on the halfway line. A recovery followed by a neatly threaded pass set Bobby Wales through on goal. The Scotland youth international showed composure, calmly clipping past Robbie Mutch (0-1).

The visitors doubled their advantage two minutes later. Regular hitman Steven Warnock reclaimed the ball after being upended just inside the box, confidently slotting away the penalty he had earned (0-2).

Rounding off a frantic 10-minute period, Ayr pulled a goal back before the half-hour mark. Lyall Holding was first to meet a corner whipped into the box, powering a header past Aidan Glavin (1-2).

Both sides went on to hit the woodwork before half-time. A Steven Warnock corner eventually made its way back to the Killie man who smashed a curling effort onto the far post from the tightest of angles.

Ayr came millimetres from an equaliser, again threatening from the aerial route. A header was crashed onto the post, before Ruari Ellis made a superb block inside his six-yard box to maintain a lead at the interval.

Ayr would be forced into a goal line clearance of their own prior to the whistle. A period of pinball inside the penalty area concluded with Aaron Brown’s attempt from 18 yards being headed off the line.

The hosts were quickest out of the changing rooms, finding an equaliser two minutes after the restart. Francis Amartey capitalised on a slow start by the defence, knocking the ball in from close range at the back post.

Steven Warnock led the search for Killie’s next breakthrough. The No.10 was quick to fire a response, fizzing a shot across the face of goal moments after Ayr’s leveller. Heading into the final half hour, he would also see a 25-yard free-kick attempt rise over the far goal enclosure.

Killie’s next big chance fell to on-form Under-18s attacker Zander Craik. A neat exchange with Bobby Wales preceded Aaron Brown’s cross into the central area of the box, but the young forward’s connection wasn’t strong enough to divert the ball goalwards.

An excellent piece of goalkeeping from Ayr’s substitute goalie kept the score level with just over 10 minutes to play. Tenacious pressing and a strong tackle saw Ruari Ellis recover possession before feeding a ball wide to Steven Warnock. His cross from the right wing found Bobby Wales, whose powerful volley from 18 yards was parried away from goal.

It was on-loan Cardiff full-back Tom Davies who would come closest to a winner in the final moments. After stepping up to hit a 25-yard free-kick, the Welshman saw his left-footed effort clip the outside of the ‘keeper’s right-hand post.

Result: Ayr United 2-2 Kilmarnock

Kilmarnock lineup: Glavin, Brannan (Mackle 56), Davies, Ellis, E.Brown, Quigg, Mersey, Wales, Craik (Leslie 70), Warnock, A.Brown.

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